Born: 12 February 1990
Junior Club: Mudgeeraba
Senior Club: Southport
Schools: Gilston Primary, Palm Beach SHS
Regional Selection: Gold Coast Stingrays
Queensland Selection: U18 (2008)
Draft Details: Selection #29 (2nd round) 2008 National Draft
AFL Debut: Collingwood v Melbourne, MCG, Rd 8, 2009, (4 April)
Jumper Number: 17
AT A GLANCE: A Gold Coast product who was the standout member of the Queensland U18 side in 2008 and, after rejecting the certainty of a three-year contract with the fledgling Gold Coast AFL franchise, lived his dream when drafted by Collingwood. An in-and-under midfielder with excellent ball-winning ability and goal-sense, he had served a stellar 2008 audition for AFL football when he skippered the Queensland U18 side, was clearly their side’s best player, and was a member of Southport's AFLQ premiership side. That he suffered a nasty hip injury early in the grand final didn’t matter – he’d already done enough. And after being heavily courted by the Magpies in the lead-up to the draft he was positively overjoyed when taken by the club at No.29 in the second round of the draft.
It had been an unusual journey to the AFL. Born in Victoria, he had moved with his family to the Gold Coast as a four-year-old and took up football at two years later in 1997 at Mudgeeraba, in the hinterland overlooking the famous tourist strip. Also a talented cricketer, he divided his sporting energies for a long time but football was always No.1. He represented Queensland at U12, U15 and U16 level in 2002-05-06. In 2007 he made an unheralded senior debut for Southport as a 17-year-old in 2007, when he was runner-up in the Sharks' U18 B&F. He had his first taste of senior football in round 15 of the 2007 AFLQ campaign against Redland, when the Sharks beat the soon-to-be wooden-spoon by 147 points, and followed up with his first appearance at the Gabba in a 29-point loss to the Suncoast Lions.
So 'anonymous' was the Palm Beach High School student at the time that his name was spelt incorrectly. He was Dane instead of Dayne. He didn't win selection again in a Southport side that went on to lose the grand final to Mt.Gravatt, but even then good judges had tagged him as one to watch. In 2008 he stepped up to the plate as one of the country's hottest young prospects, averaging 32 possessions and two goals in three games for the Queensland Scorpions against TAC Cup opposition, and averaging 24 possessions at the NAB AFL Division Two Championships, with a best of 34 against the Northern Territory. An automatic senior selection with Southport whenever he was available, he played 11 games, including two finals, and kicked 13 goals. Four weeks in a row in the run to September he kicked two goals, and was a close second to Mt.Gravatt's Rohan Bail, later to be drafted by Melbourne, in voting for the NAB AFLQ Rising Star Award.
But he wasn’t just content to be drafted by Collingwood. He was a young man on a mission. So highly was he regarded at the Pies that he was awarded the No.17 jumper worn with such distinction by retiring captain Scott Burns. After enormous pre-season hype, driven as much by his heavily tattooed right arm, he made an eye-catching NAB Cup debut for the Pies on the same night Ben Cousins returned to football after an 18-month absense. He followed up with another solid effort as the 'Pies qualified for the NAB Cup Grand Final, and in his first season played in the NAB Cup grand final loss to Geelong. Was an emergency for Round 1 of the premiership season and received a late call-up to debut in Round 2 against Melbourne at the MCG. Quite remarkably, he never really took a backwards step. He played 18 of a possible 24 games, including two finals (after missing one through injury), kicked 14 goals and averaged almost 18 possessions.
He had 18 ‘touches’ on debut against the Demons and followed up with 21 against eventual premiers Geelong in his second game. In Round 17 he had 21 possessions and kicked two goals against Essendon to earn a nomination for the NAB AFL Rising Star Award, and had a season-high 30 possessions against Richmond in Round 20. He missed the qualifying final against St.Kilda through injury but won an immediate selection recall for a semi-final win over Adelaide and a preliminary final loss to Geelong. Such was the hype as the season wore on he was identified as a primary target once again for the Gold Coast but, committed to the Pies, he signed a contract extension in August that will see him play for the club until at least the end of 2012.
He finished 4th overall in the NAB AFL Rising Star Award won by Brisbane’s Daniel Rich and 2nd to Rich in the AFLPA Best First Year Player award before winning Collingwood’s Best First Year Player Award. Incredibly, the 19-year-old played in front of a total of more than 1million people in his debut season at an average of 57,545. He showcased his cool potential to five crowds of 80,000-plus, including 87,258 and 84,213 against eventual grand finalists Geelong and St. Kilda at the MCG in September. He is a 200-game player in the making if ever there was one.